Skip to content

Does A Vibrator Desensitize Your Clitoris?

February 23, 2012

Welcome to Cuntlove’s  advice column. I don’t claim to be an expert at anything. Rather, I hope that this advice column will become a place of discussion and support. I invite all readers to join the discussion and offer advice, or at the very least direct the person seeking help to the appropriate resources. Personal stories and experiences about the issues at hand are appreciated. That being said, let’s get to it.

Can the repeated use of a vibrator desensitize your clitoris?

There’s a myth going around that says that using a vibrator to masturbate will desensitize your clit and make it harder for you to achieve orgasm any other way. To answer this question properly, I think there are several key points to address.

The clitoris  is made up of approximately 8,000 nerve endings, which are connected to the pelvic region with 15,000 nerve fibers (more than any other area of the body). To put that into context, the tip of a penis is made up of 4,000 nerve endings, while the tip of a finger tip is made up of approximately 2,500 never endings.

When people worry that certain masturbation techniques or the use of a vibrator will desensitize their clitoris, what they’re essentially talking about is never damage, but the only things that can cause nerve damage are severe third degree burns and a physical injury that actually severs a nerve, so unless your masturbation technique burns the freakin’ hell out of your clit or cuts through some nerves, you pretty much have nothing to worry about in terms of permanent loss of sensation.

Vibrations cannot cause nerve damage and will not desensitize your clitoris. However, when it comes to sexual pleasure, sensitivity, and what gets us off there are many other factors to consider. Sexuality and sexual pleasure are fluid and have a tendency to fluctuate. If one particular technique has gotten you off for the last decade, it might not do such a good job tomorrow. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you physically, it just means that you have to play around and find something else that works for you.

Although only nerve damage can truly desensitize your clitoris, it’s pretty common to get in a rut, where what used to work just fine doesn’t do it for us anymore, but that’s usually due to psychological factors as opposed to a real deal physical problem. Our moods, hormones, libido, health, stress levels, and a host of other things have an effects on what gets us of. It’s usually nothing to be too worried about, because as I said these things fluctuate and that’s a very typical experience for a lot of people.

As for the fear that vibrators will make it harder for you to achieve an orgasm through manual stimulation or intercourse, I have a few things to say about that. I used to have the same fear once upon a time, quite frankly, the only person in my life that has been able to give me consistent orgasms is myself. I’ve got a few tried and true methods in my arsenal that never fail me, but I’ve worried about how that affects partnered sex.

Vibrators are so good and so efficient (for me anyhow, I know some people don’t get the same thrill out of them), that when it comes to straight up having an orgasm, fingers, and tongues, cocks, and whatever other body parts need to put in a little more work. That doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. Not everyone can have an orgasm through intercourse alone. Even when it comes to manual stimulation of the clitoris, it’s not always a sure thing. If you’re one of the people who can only consistently get off with a vibrator, I don’t see that as a problem or as something to worry about.

Just because a vibrator gives you a “better” orgasm than manual masturbation or intercourse, it doesn’t mean that you’ve “desensitized” your clitoris with too much vibration. What it means, is that vibrators are an important part of your sexuality, and simply put they’re what work best for you. This isn’t something to be ashamed of or to worry about. There are a lot of ways to include vibrators or other sex toys into partnered sex. If vibrators do it for you, embrace them as part of your sexuality. There’s no need to view that as “abnormal” or limiting. There’s a whole world out there of sexual pleasures that you can discover, with or without the help of vibrators.

We face enough pressure in this world of ours, the last thing you need to worry about is whether the use of a vibrator is “desensitizing” your clitoris, because it’s not! Spend that energy on something more productive, like discovering and exploring all the things in this world that can and do give you pleasure.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2012 7:05 pm

    Hear hear!

    I learned to orgasm in my early twenties after years without any success and all thanks to a vibrator. It’s still the only sure-fire way for me, especially now I have RSI in both my hands! I’m comfortable with that and so is my partner… there are so many other awesome ways to enjoy sex, orgasm is only one facet of it. Though I must say, over time my vibrator use has made me MORE sensitive if anything, almost as if constant use have strengthened the… nerve…connection… things… or something! Ok that’s obviously a half baked theory but there ya go!

  2. February 23, 2012 8:04 pm

    I have no idea if you can strengthen nerve connection things, but there’s certainly something to be said about developing a preference for something and perfecting the ultimate, huh, technique, so to speak. I think it depends on how turned on you are before you even start touching yourself. If I start masturbating cold it can take longer, but if I’ve been primed by reading erotica, fantasizing, watching porn, etc, I almost make myself cum too fast. Like, damn, I wish that could have lasted a little longer. Of course, I can always make myself cum over and over again.

    Oh, and hell ya to being comfortable incorporating sex toys in your partnered sex life!

  3. TemptingSweets99 permalink
    February 23, 2012 10:45 pm

    Especially love your last paragraph. So very true. Another wonderful post.

  4. February 24, 2012 2:00 am

    Thanks!!! <3 Spread the word, I need more people to write in, so I can keep this column going!

  5. February 26, 2012 4:36 pm

    Desensitise the clitoris? Absolutely not. In fact when I orgasm through vibrator stimulation (as opposed to finger stimulation which takes a lot longer) my clitoris becomes too sensitive to touch for 20 or so minutes, where as after orgasming through finger stimulation alone I’m good to go again straight away!
    Now I realise that this is not the “desensitising” that this excellent post is all about, but it does still illustrate that vibrator use is perfectly safe. I know, I’ve been using one for over 30 years, solo AND partnered!

  6. February 27, 2012 11:23 am

    I know I can cum much faster and much stronger with the help of a vibrator. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a variety of sexual experiences, but it also doesn’t mean that anyone should feel bad about it. So ya, YAY for vibrators.

  7. May 11, 2012 10:38 pm

    I understand what you are saying about it not being possible for a vibrator to technically be able to desensitize you or cause nerve damage. None the less, I did get rid of the powerful vibrator I had and got a less powerful one because I was concerned that using something powerful all the time alone was impacting the ability of me having orgasms with men. When I was having the orgasms with the vibrator it was being held on the outside of the vagina and they were powerful orgasms. When having sex with men I could have orgasms thru oral sex or after they reached orgasm and pulled out but were still laying on top of me I could rub against them while my legs are wrapped around them and cum like that. I rarely ever reached an orgasm with them inside of me. Once I got the less powerful vibrator that was also curved and flexible (which my previous one was not), I started using that inside of me and continued to do so until I finally began to reach orgasms that way. Now I am finally also able to reach orgasms with men with them inside of me as well. Since this has happened it has loosened me up and made me relax so much that for the first time in my life I am having multiple orgasms without a problem now. That was an unexpected and very rewarding side effect.

  8. June 20, 2012 6:39 pm

    Glad to hear switching vibrators and such a positive impact on your sexuality. Variety is always good, it allows you to discover new and different things about yourself.

  9. noname permalink
    August 18, 2012 12:06 pm

    Constant stimulation will use up the neuro-transmitters in your nerves. Your nerves will eventually make more, but if you stimulate consistently enough, you can deplete your neurotransmitters well before the nerves are at full capacity.

    This represents loss of sensitivity without nerve damage. So your thesis is seriously flawed.

    That said, this effect wears off. And there is no reason to feel shame. But if you are having trouble having an orgasm in a situation where you want to have an orgasm, it may be time to put the vibrator away for a few months.

  10. Interested permalink
    August 24, 2012 4:31 pm

    “Using up neurotransmitters” just doesn’t sound right to me!!

    On the opposite side of, as you say, ” using up your neurotransmitters”, (for which I for one would like to have a medically based reference for the idea of masturbation of any sort actually “using up all of one’s neurotransmitters”), it is, rather, possible to STRENGTHEN neuro-pathways by stimulation of an area, much like someone who has had a nerve injury and would like to re-establish that brain-to-body-part connection, i.e.: someone who’s had temporary leg paralysis after a spinal injury who over comes that injury with physical therapy. With that in mind, prudent use of any sensible stimulating apparatus can help someone become aware of their own triggers as well as help to lay the ground work for an actual mind to body part connect to that stimulation. To your point, however….

    When describing your idea of “using up neurotransmitters”, you may be talking about the phenomenon referred to as DESENSITIZATION. In that situation, I’m not so sure one is actually running out of the chemicals that make the bridge between neurons in the brain so much as re-training the brain how to reinterpret or accept stimulation. For example, one might be sensitive to touch in an area, ‘feeling’ ticklish at first. Then, with repeated reintroduction of that particular stimuli which may have formerly engendered a “ticklish” sensation, prudent reintroduction may eventually begin to train the brain to ignore the stimulus somewhat or change the manner in which the brain interprets the stimuli to where it no longer feels ticklish. I suppose you could characterize it as training the brain to “expect” a different sensation from the same stimulus. A sexual example may be a woman who finds it ticklish to have her breasts stimulated or touched, but then eventually finds the touch more erotic than an annoying tickle.

    What a person WANTS to ‘feel’ or wants the brain’s interpretation of stimuli to be plays a role on how it turns out. For example, a new mom who once cringed at the sound of children’s incessant noises will change to possess a high tolerance for all children’s noise through a process of adaptive desensitization. Brain pathways will develop a different interpretation of all that incoming stimulation. The interpretation will be less alarming or irritating and can even become a source of enjoyment. The stimulus is the same; the meaning is different now. That phenomenon is what keeps a parent with a small child as a traveling companion relatively sane on a long plane ride. As we know, those who are not parents of small children aren’t always as easily able (or now, possess the need or desire to be willing) to tolerate that kind of stimulation, whether it’s on a plane ride, in a restaurant or in their own home. It’s common that once a parent’s own children have grown to return to finding a child’s typical noises irritating at high levels- even if it’s just the nieces and nephews at the holidays. At that point, that older parent has no current desire or need to be as tolerant; their expectations of response to that stimuli is different. Sexual response can run in trends for us that way too.

    DESIRE to have a particular response is a part of the formula to make it happen. In the example above, young parents are very desirous or driven to embrace kid noises. To bring it back to a sexual example, a woman who does not want sexual advances from a particular person will typically find it difficult to allow – for lack of a better word – herself to feel a happy, sexual response from a stimulus that which when otherwise offered from a desirable lover, would produce a ‘hot’ response. Not only does that apply in the case of new encounters, but also between established lovers. It’s quite common for a woman who’s experiencing an emotional hurt by her lover to find it impossible to respond at that moment in the same positive way to that same sexual stimulation from her lover which normally would have sent her to the moon. The mind blocks that feel-good pathway in favor of protecting her from someone who on an even unconscious level she feels threatened by or at least not emotionally secure with. My claim here isn’t in stone, of course, and I don’t mean to over simplify the issues. We are complicated and the process of combining all that goes into sexual responses is complicated.

    Regarding vibrator use, there is a potential good outcome that can be derived from using a vibrator and, unfortunately, there could be an undesirable outcome from poor use of its stimulation. Pressure that’s too hard, too direct, or too much vibration, however you describe it, may potentially leads to an unintended form of desensitization. Clearly, most of us wouldn’t want to become desensitized in that ‘region’. On the other hand, I could imagine someone who finds a relatively small amount of stimulation leads him or her to too quick of a climax thus wanting to become a less sensitized, less reactive or, in fact, relatively desensitized. An example here might be a man who in his first, or even first few sexual experiences comes to orgasm too quickly. It is common for more experience, more exposure to that stimuli, will provide a means for him to attend to his body-mind connections, as well as to potentially result in some unconscious desensitization. With ongoing exposure he discovers that he can tolerate more, or longer, penile stimulation prior to orgasm. An early orgasmic, new-in-experience male doesn’t need to “use up” excess neurotransmitters to delay orgasm! He needs to retrain his mind’s interpretations of what is happening with his body.

    Sure, everyone realizes when they’ve reached that point after orgasm when the circuits have been ‘overloaded’ or ‘maxed-out’ so to speak. More stimulation is not a good or welcome stimulation. Thankfully, the brain has some sort of limit built in as to how much stimulation a body can tolerate- good or bad. I’ve never heard it discussed in medical circles that a body can tolerate an infinite amount of building pain. Nor have I heard of a case where one has experienced so much pain stimulation that one ‘runs out of neurotransmitters’. Can you even imagine a world in which we could tolerate an infinite amount of any kind of stimulation without our brain stepping in to relieve us? We pass out, seize or even die first. I don’t believe we stop feeling pain because too much pain-inducing stimulation “used up all the neurotransmitters”.

    When on overload, the brain eventually takes a different path. There are reports of people being seriously injured (lots of potential pain inducing stimulation) but the brain simply redirects it’s interpretation or its resources (& neurotransmitters) to helping the person survive rather than debilitating the person with his/her own growing pain. Such was the case where a hiker fell off a cliff, broke several bones, including her leg, yet was never in pain as she dragged herself for dozens of hours to a rescue point. It was when she was found, when she knew she had help, that her brain redirected itself to the now most relevant problem, her injuries. At that point, the pain came. The neurotransmitters were at work the entire time.

    As well as the possible, as I’ve called it, “circuit overload” during stimulation immediately after climax, the case may be that, for men or women, stimulation prior to reaching orgasm that’s not right: wrong place, too hard, too much pressure or too much ‘vibration’, whatever the case, actually sabotages orgasm by “short-circuiting” our response from the good feelings to unintended negative feelings. The pathway at that point has moved from a progressively fabulous orgasmic response to a pathway that is more of a pain or frustration response pathway. Thus, that long anticipated orgasm gets “short circuited”. I hear of this phenomenon more in women than men. Transmitters are working all the while.

    (This ‘short-circuiting’ along with general lack of positive reinforcement through orgasm is one of the greatest reasons I believe older women don’t engage in sex more often. I mean after all, most men orgasm with every sexual encounter. Most women; not that lucky. Women are in the unfortunate place where their brain isn’t expecting orgasm like clockwork. There’s no reliable expectation. The brain (& body) isn’t habitually rewarded each and every time. To me, that explains why men are so freaked out by their penises not responding the first time or in isolated situations. Men typically enjoy constant, uninterrupted orgasmic rewards (uninterrupted positive reinforcement) after each sexual act so that when one time it doesn’t happen – bamm! They freak! For a woman, it’s more normal to be disappointed. But that’s all another topic, yeah?)

    Back to this issue of “using up neurotransmitters”. In reverse, many a sexual counselor has advised a woman who finds orgasm a difficult achievement to use manual self-stimulation, with or without a vibrator, to explore her own triggers and to develop neuro-pathways connecting the body’s experience with how the mind interprets stimulation. She would not be risking “using up neurotransmitters” rather, awakening or training neuro-pathways towards a more productive direction.

    I could be very wrong, but as a layperson I’ve NEVER heard of “using up” neurotransmitters through the use of vibrators — unless maybe we’re talking about chronic torture – and I don’t think we are. If that were the case, I’d think there would be many, many other situations in life where we all would “use up” neurotransmitters in other highly stimulating situations on a regular basis. HOWEVER, I will say that it is my understanding that in severe cases of chronic pain or emotional distress that we can/do use certain neurotransmitters faster than our body can produce them or rather, re-uptake for future use those chemicals which are floating around between the brain’s neurons. That diminishing availability of usable neurotransmitters is what can lead to chemical depression. I firmly stand by the explanation of desensitization or short-circuiting in the case of one losing the ability for vibrators to provide the pleasure response one is seeking. Sure, I’ll grant you that not being able to reach a desired orgasm IS depressing – but is not caused by “using up all the neurotransmitters”!! LOL!!

  11. May 13, 2013 6:01 pm

    I am a woman who tried one of the high-powered vibrators and sure wish she had not. I used it only lightly on the tip – the most sensitive part and it destroyed the nerve endings – it was 3 months ago and I have not been able to achieve orgasm since the use of the damned thing. Maybe the batery operated ones are safe, but the electric ones surely are NOT. It destroyed me.

  12. Amy permalink
    October 17, 2013 4:51 pm

    The desensitization doesn’t occur due to damage, normally. And yes, you can damage any tissue with vibrations. It happened to me. It depends on the speed and intensity of the vibrations. Some people end up having painful orgasms because of it. You CAN overuse a vibrator (if not used properly), just like you can experience damage from actual penetration of a penis.

    The point isn’t that you shouldn’t use vibrators, it’s that you shouldn’t HURT yourself. Which you can do completely by accident. If you can experience genital numbness from an increase in the hormones in birth control, what the hell makes you think that excessive stimulation can’t wear out the nerves ability to fire off neurotransmitters (as some one else already TRIED to mention). Such is the same phenomena that occurs after quitting an SSRI. Your body needs to get adjusted.

    The effects of desensitization or often overplayed. But for those that EXPERIENCE this problem, it is very real and very embarrassing. Do NOT tell some one they don’t have a problem just because you don’t understand it. Why even risk being wrong? You really should understand that lack of feeling isn’t strictly due to nerve DAMAGE, but rather a chemical problem.

  13. Steve permalink
    October 19, 2013 7:04 am

    My ex and my gf is telling me it do get harder to orgasm whit me after vibrator use. they both
    placed them away and orgasming was no problem any moore. And no, they dont lie to me eather. I have tried a Magicwand 1 time to orgasm and my dick was numb for the rest off the day so. Just wonder what would happen iff il used that every singel day? Horror feeling not beeing abel to orgasming whit my woman any moore. And just look around forums there are many woman out there that have this problem and how many doesnt whant to talk about it?

  14. Anna permalink
    October 19, 2013 8:03 am

    So if I think it is so great, what is it that I hate so much about it? Well, I had been single for about a year before I got my first rabbit. I was also single for about another six months afterwards. When I hooked up with a guy for the first time after that I was disappointed. It’s not that the sex was bad or anything like that, but there is just no way that any guy will ever be able to get me off the same way as my rabbit.

    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get one. I just wish that someone had warned me that I would need to look at regular sex differently after I got this toy.

    I definitely recommend that you get one. But remember that when you go back to having sex with a real guy that the type of stimulation is going to be different. If you are having sex with him to enjoy his company and having his hands all over your body, then it will still be great. But if you are only focusing on the way his penis feels in your vagina, then there really is no comparing the two.

    Get the rabbit vibrator if you want mega orgasms, but remember that a real guy can’t keep up.

  15. Cristina permalink
    November 23, 2013 6:45 am

    I think I overused my vibrator, maybe an hour or more, and it’s been 48 hours since and I still have an aroused/tingly sensation on my clitoris that won’t go away. I tried ice and it didn’t work. I tried using the vibrator again and it didn’t help, twice. After searching on the internet I’m afraid I’ve developed the Peristent Sexual Arousal symptoms. I’ve used a vibrator for months and this is the first time this happens. Is there another explanation to what’s going on? I’m wondering if it’s just nerve damage as some of you have mentioned above. If it is nerve damage will it go away or is it permanent?

  16. November 23, 2013 5:35 pm

    If the feeling hasn’t gone away, go see a doctor.

  17. angelagoodnight permalink
    February 8, 2014 5:35 pm

    Absolute nonsense. I’ve used one for the last forty-four years and my husband still has to peel me off the ceiling if he touches my bare clit before I’m aroused. LOL. If you want to know more about vibrator use, try my blog. Just search my name.

  18. Talulah permalink
    April 3, 2014 3:17 am

    I can only orgasm with a partner if I’m using a vibrator (but other ways work when I’m alone). Over the years I’ve found that a medium to low power vibe is best, as well as not always putting the vibe directly on the clit. If I charge my current vibrator to full power it’s too strong, even on a low setting. Going around the clit is one way to counteract a too strong vibrator. In my experience too strong directly on the clit can cause numbing, similar to using a magic wand on sore muscles elsewhere on the body. I’ve never had long term desensitizing from using a vibrator!

  19. Clare permalink
    May 22, 2014 1:06 am

    Hi, 27 yr old here who can ONLY give myself pleasure with a vibrator. Nothing (and I mean nothing) happens when I try using my fingers. It gets me down and makes me feel inadequate. So thank you for this reassuring post that made me feel a tiny bit better!

  20. Helen permalink
    June 19, 2014 6:25 pm

    Okay is there anyway to reverse the damage?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: